The Fall of an Empire: Four Ways the Internet can Obliterate a Good Reputation

You work day in and day out to build a good relationship with your customers and establish a good reputation for your business. What are the chances that something going on out there in cyberspace could jeopardize the good name you’ve earned for yourself among your real, flesh-and-blood customers? Here are at least four things that might surprise you one day.

1. The One Bad Reviewer Who Won’t Quit

Anyone can commit an occasional blunder. Even a good employee can have a bad day. In the age of the internet, the world will hear all about it.

Suppose just one customer has a bad experience one day. This customer decides to travel across the Internet, leaving one bad review after another on Yelp, Citysearch, Yahoo Reviews, and so on.

And suppose you decide to pretend that you don’t know any of these negative reviews exist. You further cross your fingers and hope that they’ll fall out of the search engine results all on their own. Or, worse yet, you actually don’t know they exist.

Potential customers are going to find these negative reviews when they research your business online. Even your existing customers may see them and form a lower opinion of you.

Bad reviews can rank very high in Google and the other search engines. But if you search for your company and discover that they exist, you can balance them out and scoot them down the page. Do so by creating new positive content for your website and social channels and optimizing it for your company name.

2. Disgruntled Customers Plus Social Media

The Fall of an Empire: Four Ways the Internet can Obliterate a Good Reputation

Image via Flickr by Andrew Currie

Imagine that, one day, your business receives some unflattering comments on a social media channel. And maybe the bad comments are just so interesting that they get shared, retweeted, and reblogged more rapidly than you ever dreamed any remarks about you would. Maybe there are whole conversations about your terrible service on Twitter. Maybe one angry comment placed directly on your own Facebook wall, for all of your current and potential customers to see, only leads to a flurry of more of them.

Suppose that this time, instead of ignoring your critics, you decide to engage them and tell them exactly how wrong they are. You get a little carried away. You not only fail to take responsibility for your customers’ bad experiences, but you end up presenting yourself in pretty much the worst light possible.

By the end of it, even you realize how bad you sound. You spend a large part of the next day deleting it all, but you can’t delete it from people’s memories.

You can become your worst enemy on your own social media. Or, you can welcome your customers’ feedback, sincerely address their concerns, and turn what could be a public relations fiasco into an opportunity to grow goodwill.

3. Bad Judgment Plus Social Media

What if the culprit who turns your social media into a negative publicity machine is not a disgruntled customer? What if it’s you, or it’s someone who works for you? Imagine that you inadvertently post something that you didn’t mean to be embarrassing to yourself or insulting to someone else, but then quickly have your subtext pointed out to you.

Maybe you accidentally say something to the general public that you meant to say to someone else, like the hapless employee of one company that handles social media for other businesses. This person stated for the record that people in Detroit don’t know how to drive, but really didn’t mean to send this message over Chrysler’s Twitter feed.

You can avoid this kind of situation by double-checking everything you post, making certain you have logged into the right account, and monitoring what everyone else in your company is posting. If it happens anyway, apologize, of course, and then take stock of the situation. If you’re deep in more damage than you can control, a reputation management company such as can help you to turn your social media into a positive force for your business once again.

4. Plain Old Bad Press

Another bad thing that could happen to your reputation has nothing to do with social media or review sites. Perhaps one day the local newspaper publishes something unflattering about your business or about you.

The print edition of this article lands in the recycling bin the next day, but the electronic version lives on. It also ranks highly in search results because Google and friends really like and respect newspapers.

So you send a flaming letter to the editor of the paper and have a public meltdown on Facebook—or, you apply what you learned in the above situations, address the topic of the article in a measured way for customers in your social media, and create positive content to balance the negative effect.

The Internet poses many dangers to your reputation, and some you’ll never see coming. But if you monitor what customers and others say about you, address your customers’ concerns, and seek professional help when you need it, your entire business empire doesn’t have to come crashing down.

Author Bio:

Cynthia Nardis has been writing online since 2006. She lives in Cleveland, Ohio, with her family.


  1. Hi Cynthia and Vitaly,

    Excellent breakdown here.

    One note; if you are doing your best and simply admit when you are wrong karma is on your side. Glowing testimonials will be your best ally and one, or even a series, of bad reviews cannot damage your rep because the 500 good reviews weight things out heavily in your favor in the court of public opinion.

    I have received a few negative reviews here and there but seeing this feedback as an opportunity to handle criticism, and improve myself, as well as taking the critic’s opinions as an introduction to running my own businesses helped me to embrace the criticism.

    In truth, you can learn a good deal from critics….and you can also learn when the ramblings of an unhappy person should be ignored LOL….your intuition will tell you the difference.

    Thanks for the share guys!


  2. Love #2 & #3… Charleston Paddle Expeditions recently went on drunken F bomb, C word tirade on me after I {very politely} called them out on touching a manatee on Instagram (they’re endangered & a protected species). He spewed his nonsense under his business account at me and any one else who came to my rescue complete with calling me and leaving long ranting drunken voicemails threatening a lawsuit as he worked with… SC DNR and better still…US Fish & Game and was authorized by their attorneys to sue me (on a Saturday night? Shure…). All of which I discovered was completely false. While is was just one post as he deleted some comments it was pretty ugly for days while this guy continued to go on a tirade. This was a prefect example of not only having zero business sense, but
    not taking the time to actually draft a social media strategy and plan
    complete with crisis management detailing how to respond to negative comments.

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